Arguments Over Congress Muslim

CMP(12A)  Congress and the Cabinet Mission's arguments over inclusion of a Congress Muslim in the Interim Government in June 1946
 Documents included
  • Gandhi to Viceroy Wavell, 12 June 1946(full text).
  • Meeting of Cabinet Delegation and Viscount Wavell with Representatives of the  Congress Party on 23 June 1946 (full text)
  • Viceroy Wavell to Mr. Jinnah 4 October 1946 (excerpt)

From 'The Transfer of Power 1942-7' Volumes VII The Cabinet Mission 23 March-29 June 1946, Eds, Nicholas Mansergh and Penderel Moon, 1977.

This is one of the many references  indicating  Jinnah's unwillingness to deal with Maulana Azad.

Mr. Gandhi to Viceroy Wavell, 12 June 1946, 499 page 877 (full text)

NEW DELHI, 12 Jun 1946

From you, almost straightaway, I went to the Working Committee which, owing to his illness, was held  at Maulana Saheb's quarters. I gave them the gist of our conversation, told them that I gladly endorsed your suggestion about the parties meeting to fix up names subject to the provisio that no party should talk of parity, you should invite them simply to submit to you a joint list of the Cabinet of the Provisional Interim Government which you would approve or, if you did not, you would invite them simply to submit a revised list bearing in mind your amendments, that the list should represent a Coalition Government composed of persons of proven ability and incorruptibility.

I suggested too that in the place of parity there should be active enforcement of the long-term provision in your joint statement that in all major communal issues there should be communal voting to decide them. I suggested also that in the event of absence of agreement between the parties in spite of all effort, you should examine the merits of the respective lists of the two parties and accept either the one or the other(not an amalgam) and announce the names of the Interim Government but that before that final step was taken you should closet youselves until a joint list was prepared. I told the Working Committee that you had seemed to endorse my suggestions.

I told them further that, so far as I knew, it was a point of honour with Congressmen that there could be no joint consultation in which Maulana Saheb was not associated with the talks. You said it was a sore point with Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah and I replied that the soreness was wholly unwarranted and that the Congress could not be expected to sacrifice its faithful servant of twenty-five years' standing whose self-sacrifice and devotion to the national cause had never been in question. But I told you that your great experience and ability to handle delicate matters would show you the way out of the difficulty.

Finally, I told the Committee that I drew your attention to the fact that the European vote which was being talked of was unthinkable, in connection with the Constituent Assembly and nothing but a public declaration by the European residents of India or one by you on their behalf could make possible the formation of the Constituent Assembly. I gathered from you that the question was already engaging your  attention and that it should be satisfactorily solved.

Probably you have already moved in the matter of the joint talk. Nevertheless, I thought I owed it to you and the Working Committee to put on record what I had reported about our talks. If I have in any way misunderstood you, will you please correct me?

I may say that the Working Committee had its draft letter ready but at my suggestion it postponed consideration of it pending the final result of your effort adumbrated in this letter. The draft letter takes the same view that I placed before you yesterday on parity and the European vote and their election as members of the contemplated Constituent Assembly.

I close with the hope that your effort will bear the fruit to which all are looking forward.

The British and Congress argue over Congress's insistence that Jinnah must have no veto on a Congress Muslim member in its own quota of Cabinet positions. This exchange pretty comprehensively reveals the respective  points of view of the British and Congress on the subject but is only one of their many arguments on the same.  It also presages the future difficulties of the Interim Government.

592 page 1012-1018 (full text)

Record of Meeting of Cabinet Delegation and Field Marshal Viscount Wavell with Representatives of the Congress Party on Sunday, 23 June 1946 at 2 pm

The Congress were represented by Maulana Azad, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

The Secretary of State in an opening statement said that before the Congress reached final decisions, the Delegation were anxious to be sure that there was no misunderstanding of their position. They quite appreciated the importance which Congress attached to the recognition of their national character, but they did hope that in this particular instance Congress would see their way not to make a demand for the inclusion of a Muslim among the Congress representatives in the Interim Government, though without in any way creating a precedent or approving a principle.

The Delegation wished to make it quite clear that they had not given any assurance to Mr. Jinnah or the Muslim League that they accepted the view, which Mr. Jinnah had advanced, that the Muslim League represents all Muslim political opinion and that no other party except the Muslim League has any right to nominate a Muslim for a political post.

It had been made clear to Mr. Jinnah that the Delegation did not accept this point of view. For the purpose, however, of forming this particular Coalition Government the Delegation had taken into account all the arguments that had been advanced to them by both parties up to the date on which they made their statement of the 16th June. In light of those arguments they had produced a list of persons whom they thought most likely to form the basis of a sound Coalition which would be acceptable to both parties.

The Secretary of State thought that the Congress representatives were entitled to know that the Delegation were not asking them to forgo their principles or abandon their status as a national party, but nevertheless they did hope that the Congress would not press this claim in this particular instance. He thought that if the Congress did so they would thereby jeopardise the whole future of India.

Maulana Azad said that the particular matter the Secretary of State referred to was one of the other important matters which have now come up. The whole thing, however, had to be seen together. This matter of the appointment of a Nationalist Muslim was one on which the Congress had expressed themselves clearly throughout. It was not a temporary matter but one which dealt with the whole conception of the future. Any weakening on the Congress party's conception of a strong India by any interim parity would create conditions which would not only make administrative difficulties but would formulate conditions in certain matters which they could not get rid of in the future, and there was no immediate gain to be obtained which would be adequate to set against that.

It was stated in answer to certain objections the Congress had raised that Congress had no right to interfere with Muslim League selections, yet now exactly the same thing has been done about selections which the Congress might make. So the Muslim League could interfere with the Congress selections whilst the Congress were told that they cannot interfere with the Muslim League selections, although the Muslim League are not a political party in the full sense of the word. That is to say, they are definitely a limited communal party. The Congress protested against parity but this was something more than that. It was just a veto on future work of a kind which made honourable coalition or co-operation quite impossible.

The Secretary of State said that no objection had been raised when the Congress had wished to substitute Mr. Sarat Bose for Mr. Mahatab, and there was no question of the Muslim League being asked to agree to that. But the change they now wanted to make was something which altered the basis of the Delegation's proposals and was likely, in the Delegation's opinion, to prevent the formation of a Coalition Government.

Pandit Nehru said that the Delegation appeared to start with the presumption that progress could only be made with the co-operation of the Muslim League. The Congress disagreed with that view. They thought that under what was proposed the Muslim League would secure a vantage point from which they could veto anything that really mattered and bring the whole Government to a state of frustration.

The Secretary of State said that he was present when Maulana Azad and Pandit Nehru had themselves suggested that there should be a communal majority for important communal decisions. He certainly understood them to go as far, if not farther, in agreeing to that as the Delegation had gone. Pandit Nehru said that their agreement was linked with the proposal that the Interim Government should be responsible to the Legislative Assembly. Now it was linked to parity. He was unable to see how a Government on this basis could function.

Sir Stafford Cripps suggested that it was in practice a principle in all coalitions that in fact you must get the consent of both major parties to all major matters which were decided. If not, the coalition broke down. Pandit Nehru said that this was different. Where there was a communal basis, every day there would be obstruction on communal grounds.

His Excellency the Viceroy said that he would like to be sure there was no misunderstanding on this point. He had discussed it three times with the Congress representatives. On the first occasion he had explained that he did not see how the Government could be responsible to the Legislature. He had understood then that the Congress were prepared to agree to the communal majority provision. On the second occasion the Congress representatives had, as he understood it, accepted the proposition in connection with a Council of 15. On the third occasion he understood them to agree that in fact no major matter could be passed without the assent of the two major parties. He thought it was a great exaggeration to say this provision would be used every day. Of the issues that had come before his Council in recent months he could hardly think of any which in fact raised a major communal issue. He thought that the Congress were assuming too readily that the other party were going to behave unreasonably. If everyone behaved unreasonably the coalition would break up, and something else would have to be tried. It seemed to him that it was well worth trying a Coalition Government and seeing how it worked.

Sir Stafford Cripps said that the fact that Congress Muslims were included in Provincial Governments of itself demonstrated the national character of Congress, and the fact that a Congress Muslim was not included at the Centre would not therefore destroy that conception. Pandit Nehru said that as far as the Muslim League was concerned a Nationalist Muslim was regarded as a outcast.

Maulana Azad said that at the 1945 Conference at Simla Jinnah had agreed that the Congress could appoint who it liked provided that it did not touch upon his quota. Now he was making a further demand that no Muslim should be included even among the Congress quota, without his approval.

Sardar Patel said that Congress Muslims would say that they had better leave the Congress, if because of their membership of it, they were excluded from political positions. Sir Stafford Cripps said that the Delegation were not suggesting that Congress Muslims should be so excluded, but merely asking whether under the peculiar circumstances the Congress could not refrain from pressing for the inclusion of a Congress Muslim in the Interim Government.

Sardar Patel said that, put shortly, this meant that the proposed Coalition Government could not be formed because Jinnah objected to the appointment of a Congress Muslim. If this was to prevail, then Jinnah still had a veto in spite of what the Prime Minister had said before the Mission came out.

His Excellency the Viceroy said that Mr Jinnah had constantly complained to him that the Delegation had made too many concessions to Congress. It was a mistake to think that the Delegation had yielded to Mr Jinnah on all points. But on occasions of this sort, the stronger party was in a position to make a concession, and it might very well pay them to do so.

Sir Stafford Cripps said that the Delegation had made their Statement of 16th June as a compromise after negotiations for agreement between the parties had failed. They had taken into account the position of the two parties as put before them up to the state of the Statement. Up to that time the Congress had been pressing for a Council of 15, and for the inclusion of an additional Caste Hindu. They had said that they could not agree to parity, either between Caste Hindus and Muslims or between the Muslim League and Congress. In support of this Sir Stafford read an extract from the Congress President's letter of 14th June. In drawing up the list of names in the Statement of the 16th June, the Delegation had gone as far as they could to meet what they thought the Congress wanted at that time. The Congress had made no reference to their desire that a Congress Muslim should be appointed, and, though the point may have been dormant in their minds, it was not brought to the Delegation's attention.

Pandit Nehru said that one reason for this was that in informal talks with His Excellency the Viceroy there had been discussion of the inclusion of Zakhir Hussain. Indeed, his name had first been suggested by the Viceroy. This would have met sufficiently the point of principle that the Muslim League should not have the exclusive right to nominate Muslims, and the Congress did not wish to make the position more difficult by pressing for a Congress Muslim.

The First Lord said that the Delegation were entitled to make certain deductions from the position of the two parties as stated to them up to the time when they drew up the Statement. The Congress were then pressing for a Council of 15 with 6 Caste Hindus and 1 Congress Scheduled Caste included. When the Delegation included in their list 5 Congresss Caste Hindus and 1 Congress Scheduled Caste in a total of 14, it naturally came as a surprise to them when this entirely new point about the inclusion of Congress Muslims was raised.

Pandit Nehru said that the Delegation had perhaps been in ignorance of what had passed in the informal talks between the Congress and His Excellency the Viceroy. He had given the Viceroy a list of names which included Zakhir Hussain.

The Viceroy said that Pandit Nehru had specially asked that these names should be kept entirely confidential, and he had therefore not disclosed them to his colleagues on the Delegation. He had told Pandit Nehru that the list he had put in would be totally unacceptable to Mr. Jinnah, and that Zakhir Hussain could certainly not be included in the Muslim quota. There had at one stage been the possibility of including him, balanced by a non-Congress Hindu. He was very sorry if any misunderstanding had arisen over this. If it had, it was no doubt his fault.

Pandit Nehru said that he had raised the question with the Viceroy of the inclusion of a Muslim in the Congress quota. The Viceroy had asked him who he had in mind. He had given a hint that it might be a Congress Muslim. The Viceroy said that his recollection was that he had asked Pandit Nehru whether the person in question was Zakhir Hussain. Pandit Nehru did not commit himself, but indicated that it was possible. Consequently he had, when seeing Mr. Jinnah later that day, mentioned this possibility to him. Mr. Jinnah had reacted very strongly against it.

The First Lord said that the Delegation had every right to stand on their bona fides in the matter of the list of names included in the Statement of June 16th. Up to that point they had no indication at all that the Congress would ask for the inclusion of a Nationalist Muslim, and on the correspondence and the facts available to them they were entitled to put in six recognised Congress Hindu names. It seemed to them that it would be an absolute tragedy in the eyes of the world if these prolonged negotiations came to a break on this matter in this way.

Pandit Nehru said that they were discussing the formation of a Government which was to be a very different thing from the existing Executive Council. In practice it would have to resign if it did not have the support of the Government. The Government must therefore be formed in a new way in consonance with its character. The Congress claimed that all the appointments to it should be made in consultation with them, except the places to be given to the Muslim League.

The Viceroy said that he had never accepted the position that he handed over a block of seats in the Government to the Congress for them to fill as they pleased. He would be the responsible head of the Government. Sir Stafford Cripps said that the point was that an attempt to form a Government by agreement had failed, and we had therefore drawn up this list as something which we thought might be acceptable to both sides.

The Secretary of State said that he had come to India with the intention of transferring power from his country to India, but he did not think that the moment had come for a complete and instantaneous transfer. For the moment the Viceroy must remain the head of the Government.

Pandit Nehru said that the Congress accepted that. The Congress could moderate its demands provided that what was done was moving in the direction of creating a strong Indian nation, but if something were introduced which got in the way of that objective, they could not accept it.

The Secretary of State said that it seemed to him that the greatest obstacle to India going forward towards independence was the inability to get started. The value of getting a start made was so great as to be worth not the sacrifice of a principle but abstinence from enforcing it for the time being. Suppose that the Congress representatives persuaded the Delegation to agree to the inclusion of a Congress Muslim. If that occurred he did not believe that Mr. Jinnah would accept it, and there would be no Coalition Government. He believed it was really in the best interests of Congress and of India to act courageously and to begin by accepting the conditions under which a coalition would be possible. A solution of the communal problem in India had to be found, and for the parties to work together on practical problems provided the best hope.

Pandit Nehru said that the leaders of the Congress had been working for that objective for thirty years, but always they were faced with this same obstacle to a strong and united India. That objective was undermined most of all by the communal attack on Muslims who supported the national ideal, and the Congress could not desert those Muslims who had done so.

The Viceroy said that the Congress had itself admitted that the Muslims could not be coerced. The Secretary of State said that the Delegation in their Statement of May 16th had gone a considerable way to support the Congress in their objective of a united India, but they had given cogent reasons against a sovereign Pakistan. Moreover, they had not accepted the principle of parity, either in their long term proposals or in the interim period. It might seem to Congress that the Delegation were not sufficiently sympathetic to their standpoint, but to the Delegation itself it seemed that they were holding the balance. This they only did because Indians were unable to settle these matters themselves.

He personally felt that he had been trying to get a united India for Indians, but he could only hope to do so if he was not prevented from making the concessions which he was convinced were necessary. If the Congress did not give him the easements necessary to enable him to get Mr. Jinnah to come in, they defeated not his purpose but their own. He emphasised again that no assurance had been given to Mr. Jinnah on this matter of inclusion of a Congress Muslim, but he was convinced that if the Congress wanted a coalition the way to get it was to abstain from pressing the point.

Sardar Patel said that to do so would force all Muslims out of the Congress. The Secretary of State said that the Viceroy had set himself against this principle and would use all his authority to see that it was not established as a principle. The First Lord said that the Congress would be completely justified on paragraph 5 of the Statement of 16th June, in saying that they had not conceded in such a principle. It was specifically stated in that paragraph that the composition of the Government provided no precedent for the future.

It had been said that there would be a strong reaction among the supporters of Congress if no Congress Muslim were included. He ventured to think that there would be a much bigger and more far-reaching reaction from a breakdown, while if there were a settlement of these matters there would be immense and widespread relief.

Pandit Nehru said that the four representatives of Congress there present were old campaigners and thought that collectively they had some influence with their followers, but they did not think that even all of them together would be able to get the Congress to agree to what the Delegation desired.

A few months later in October 1946, Viceroy Wavell was saying the same thing to Jinnah which Nehru had said to the Cabinet Delegation and the Viceroy in the above-mentioned June discussion, on the subject of separate voting  on communal issues(also quoted  in 'CMP(A1):Some Plainspeaking..'):

Transfer of Power, Mansergh and Moon, Vol. VIII, 404 page 654

Viceroy Wavell to Mr. Jinnah 4 October 1946(excerpt)

"4. In a Coalition Government it is impossible to decide major matters of policy when one of the main parties to the coalition is strongly against a course of action proposed. My present colleagues and I are agreed that it would be fatal to allow major communal issues to be decided by vote in the Cabinet.

The efficiency and prestige of the Interim Government will depend on ensuring that differences are resolved in advance of Cabinet meetings by friendly discussions. A Coalition Government either works by a process of mutual adjustments or does not work at all."


CMP(1) -  From Ayesha Jalal's 'The Sole Spokesman'

CMP(2) -  Congress and Muslim League positions on 12 May 1946

CMP(3) -  The Cabinet Mission Plan 16 May 1946

CMP(4) - Jinnah  and ML  responses to the CMP 22 May  and June 6 1946

CMP(5) -  Jinnah's meeting with Mission Delegation on 4 April 1946

CMP(6) -  Jinnah's meeting with Missiion Delegation on 16 April 1946

CMP(7A) - Maulana Azad's meeting with Mission Delegation on 17 April 1946

CMP(7) -  The Congress unease with parity  8-9 May 1946

CMP(7B) - Jinnah and Azad responses to preliminary proposals 8-9 May 1946

CMP(8A) - Simla Conference meetings on 5 May 1946 on the powers of the Union

CMP(8) -  More exchanges on parity, Simla Conference meeting  11 May 1946

CMP(9) -  Jinnah and Wyatt(1) on Pakistan and CMP, 8 Jan. and 25 May 1946

CMP(10) -  Jinnah and Wyatt(2) on the interim government, 11 June 1946

CMP(11) -   Congress opposition to grouping. Gandhi, Patel and Azad, May 1946

CMP(12) - Congress Working Committee resolutions, May-June 1946

CMP(12A) - Arguments over inclusion of a Congress Muslim, June 1946

CMP(12B) - Behind the scenes-Gandhi, June-July 1946

CMP(12C) - Behind the scenes-Jinnah, June-July 1946

CMP(13) - Jawaharlal Nehru's press conference on the Plan, 10 July 1946

CMP(14) - League rejected Plan, called Direct Action,  July-August 1946

CMP(15) - Viceroy strong-arming Nehru, Gandhi on compulsory grouping, Pethick-Lawrence to Attlee, Aug -Sept 1946

CMP(16) - Intelligence assessment on Jinnah's options and threat of civil war, Sept. 1946

CMP(17) - League Boycott of the Constituent Assembly Dec. 1946

CMP(17A) - Congress "climbdown" on grouping and Jinnah's rejection, January 1947

CMP (A1) - Plain speaking from Sir Khizr Hayat, Abell on the Breakdown plan, Wavell

CMP(A2) - North West Frontier Province, Oct-Nov 1946 and Feb-March 1947

CMP(A3) - Bengal and Bihar, August - November 1946

CMP(A4) - Punjab, February - March 1947

CMP (18) - My take

CMP (19) - What did parity and communal veto mean in numbers?

CMP(20) - Another take -with links to reference material

CMP(21) - Mountbatten discussing CMP with Patel and Jinnah, 24-26 Apr 1947

CMP(22) - A reply on the Cabinet Mission Plan

Extra(1) - Jinnah's speech in March 1941 on independent sovereign Pakistan

Extra(1A) - Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1941-1942

Extra(1B) - Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1938-1940

Extra(1C) - Jinnah's speeches and Statements from 1943-45

Extra(2) - Gandhi-Jinnah talks in 1944 on defining Pakistan

Extra(3) - BR Ambedkar quoted from his book 'Pakistan or the Partition of India'

Extra(4) - Congress and Muslim parties' on the Communal question 1927-1931

Extra(4A) - Excerpts of Motilal Nehru Committee Report 1928

Extra(4B) - Nehru, Bose, Jinnah Correspondence 1937-38

Extra(5) -  BR Ambedkar on Communal Representation 1909-1947

Extra(6) - Gandhiji's scheme of offering the Prime Ministership to Jinnah in 1947

Extra(6A) - Jinnah on Congress's offers of Prime Ministership 1940-43

Extra (6B) - Apr-Jul 1947 Negotiations on Pakistan between Mountbatten and Jinnah

Extra(7) - M.A.Jinnah and Maulana Azad on two nation theory

Extra(8) - On Separate electorates, Joint electorates and Reserved constituencies

Extra(9) - Links to cartoons on Indian constitutional parleys from the Daily Mail, UK, 1942 and 1946-1947, by L.G. Illingworth

Extra(10) -Nehru Report 1928 (10 MB pdf)
Extra(11) -Iqbal's letters to Jinnah, May-June 1937

Extra(12) -Jinnah, Linlithgow, Sikander Hayat, Pakistan rumblings 1942-43

Durga Das (1) 1919-1931, Jallianwala Bagh to Bhagat Singh

Durga Das (2) 1931-1936, Crescent Card: Jinnah in London to Fazli Husain in Punjab

Durga Das(3) 1937-1940, Provincial Autonomy to Jinnah gets the veto

Durga Das(4) 1940-1945, The War Years: India's War Effort-Pakistan on a platter

Durga Das(5) 1945-1947, The Cabinet Mission to Divide and Quit

1937-1940(2)  Congress and Jinnah fall out in U.P., Jinnah's anti-Congress campaign and the Viceroy gives Jinnah a Veto: Ayesha Jalal, Sarvepalli Gopal and Stanley Wolpert

1937: Congress-Jinnah tussle over coalition government in U. P., M.J. Akbar

1937: Nehru, Jinnah and Coalition Governments, Bimal Prasad

1939-1940: India and the War, Anita Inder Singh

1945-1946: The Elections of 1945-46, Anita Inder Singh

1857-1938 Glimpses of British policy in Punjab: Ian Talbot and David Page

1930-1939 Congress Decline in Bengal, John Gallagher

Glendevon (1) 1937: Congress's Office Acceptance Saga over Governor's Powers

Glendevon (2) 1937-1940: Federation, Jinnah, Congress activism in Princely States

Glendevon (3) 1939-1942: Linlithgow, Congress, Jinnah,War-time Realignments

1939-1947: Jinnah and the Anglo-Muslim League Alliance, Narendra Singh Sarila

1944: Gandhi-Jinnah talks, Jaswant Singh

1830s-1898: British Forward Policy(1)

1899-1947: British Forward Policy(2)

Site Meter